Alan Simpson: It’s time to stop the rise in social media tourism


WHEN Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest in 1953, according to wags, they were met at the top by a load of tourists taking pictures.

Of course this isn’t true, or even particularly funny, but Hillary’s home country has just started a new campaign aimed at the very modern tourist they want to educate – namely Instagrammers.

The official New Zealand tourist body is encouraging travellers to think outside the “Instagram square” and stop trying to replicate photos popularised by influencers on social media.

In a comic new video released by the tourist board, comedian Tom Sainsbury patrols the country’s most picturesque spots on behalf of the Social Observation Squad (SOS) to reprimand those travelling “under the social influence”.

The tourist body has launched the campaign because of a rise in Instagrammers taking shots at the same places which give a distorted view of the country and ignore many of the other sites.

The success or failure of this should be closely monitored by Visitscotland to see if a similar campaign would work here.

Scotland, as we all know, is the most beautiful country in the world, but if you take a look on social media sites you could be mistaken for thinking there are only about three or four places in the country worth visiting.

Instagram images are easily filtered, so the two things that make Scotland a bit unpleasant, the weather and midges, can be just swept out of the image.

So, for example, the Fairy pools on Skye will always have tumbling turquoise water cascading over colourful rocks under a blue sky in social media posts.

Anyone who has ever been there however, will not recognise those idyllic scenes as the Fairy pools are actually fairly average and it always seems to be raining.

It is a grim walk up a path on a barren hillside being eaten alive by midges before you get to what are essentially just a few rock pools – something which you get all over Scotland, after all.

But that’s the problem with Instagram, and it sparks thousands of others to visit the sites hoping to get the dream picture of something that doesn’t actually exist.

Scotland is beautiful all over and in all weathers, which is why people keep coming back time and again and they never see it looking the same way twice.

VisitScotland has done a great job in using social media and other digital platforms to put the country in reach of a previously untapped market and has seen visitor numbers soar.

But it should not be the main driver and could actually begin to see visitor numbers fall if people don’t like the harsh reality rather than the filtered picture postcard beauty.

There are also no midges on social media, which is about the only place they’re not omnipresent and ruining much more than a picture.


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